Elijah’s just called down fire from the heavens and wiped out all of the false prophets of Baal in an epic victory. After 3 ½ years of drought the skies open and torrential rains begin to fall. He has literally and figuratively had a mountaintop experience. This dude should feel invincible right?
But he doesn’t. He goes from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel (15 Miles) and while there encounters one of Jezebel’s minions who passes along a threat she made on his life. And in the face of this threat, what does he do? He takes off and runs for his life b/c that’s what every hero does after they experience unprecedented success right?
Elijah does the opposite of what heroes are supposed to do. He’s afraid & he runs away. And its at this moment where we need to acknowledge that strong faith doesn’t preclude some weak moments.
He goes 100 miles with his servant and then he leaves him and heads into the wilderness alone and after a day’s journey he sits under a tree and prays a very simple prayer: “Kill me now.”
Elijah feels alone, but he’s not. He literally creates in his external world what he was feeling in his internal world. He feels alone so he makes sure that he is alone. He was in a metaphorical wilderness, so he runs into a literal wilderness. And if we are not careful when we feel alone, we will do the exact same thing. So often when many of us feel alone we cut off every significant relationship in our life. When we feel like we’re not worthy of love we will cut off everyone who loves us. When we’re drowning in despair we will cut ourselves off from everyone who can bring us hope and joy. These wilderness places can often be places for self fulfilling prophecies to occur…so be very, very careful when you feel alone b/c the moments where we desperately need to let others in, oftentimes become the places where we cut everyone out.
Elijah feels alone, so he goes further into the wilderness, sits under a tree and asks to die. What an uncreative prayer. This is the same guy who prayed that the skies would be shut up and for 3½ years & they were. The same guy who prayed that fire would fall from the sky and it did. He’s prayed all these epic prayers and all he can do right now is pray: “God kill me”. What about God send a tornado and swoop up Jezebel. That’s a creative prayer. Or what about God change Jezebels heart and turn her into a faithful follower of yours… make my enemy my ally. He could have prayed so many different prayers. But he just wants to die.
But this doesn’t make sense does it? Elijah runs and runs and runs for 100 miles because he’s afraid Jezebel is going to kill him. But then when he gets to a stopping point what does he pray? Kill me. If he really wanted to die, he should’ve just stayed where he was right? Jezebel could’ve honored that request.
But he doesn’t really want to die. He’s just tired and he’s struggling. He’s been through a lot. He’s focused on his pain & isolation & b/c of it he forgets all that God has done. Be careful what you focus on when you find yourself in a wilderness because the way you remember your past is the way you will create your future.
Well, then he lays down under a tree and does what most depressed people do. He falls asleep. And as he’s sleeping an angel comes and wakes him up and brings him food. And then he falls back asleep and the angel wakes him back up with more carbs & he says to Elijah: Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.
You see, you can’t walk in courage if your courage is malnourished. You have to feed your faith so that your faith can grow beyond the size of your fears. Feed your faith and your fears won’t stand a chance.
So, he does and then he gets up and travels 200 + more miles to Mt Sinai, the mountain of God.
BTW, did you notice that when Elijah was running from God that he only had strength for 1 day, but now that he’s travelling with God he has the strength for 40 days? He goes to the mountain of God and he finds a cave, no vacancy at the Marriott, and he spends the night. And somewhere during the night or perhaps the next morning the Lord comes to him, not an angel of the Lord, but the big guy himself and he says to Elijah this: “What are you doing here?” In other words, why have you given up on your life and why have you given up on me? What are you doing here? Zoning out? Checking out? Numbing out?
Elijah tells him why he’s there. But then God says get out of your man cave and go outside and stand before me on the mountain. I Kings 19:11b-13
And then he gives God the same lousy excuse. Let me ask you something: Earth, Wind, & Fire – No God. But He showed up in the whisper. Why? The Lord whispers to Elijah b/c he is close. The enemy shouts lies, but God whispers the truth. Whisper – What are you doing here? Get out of your cave. Why?
In the cave your fears can grow because the enemy grows stuff in the dark.
But when we come out of our caves, we can hear God’s voice and get his perspective.
For you, maybe today is the day it’s time for you to check out of that cave. Maybe it’s time for you to come out and stand and hear what Elijah heard. “Go back the way you came” – You’ve still got work to do – Get back to work. You see while you’ve been on the run in your wilderness, isolating yourself, I’ve been working on your retirement plan. You’ve felt sorry for yourself long enough. I didn’t bring you here to die. I gave you an assignment.
I know you’re disappointed but its time to go back to what I called you to. And in order to accomplish this final piece it won’t require a change in your feelings, it’s going to require a change of your focus. Go back the way you came and in the face of your greatest opposition what you will find is your greatest opportunity.